Monday, March 10, 2008

Is it Illegal Downloading, or a Lack of Creativity?

I have been, for years, reading about the music, movie, and entertainment industry crying the blues about illegal downloading, and how it's killing the business, leading to retail shop shut downs, lay-offs, and lost profits. There's no doubt that illegal downloading, pirated movies and such is a contributing factor to the decline. But in observing the direction of music, movies, and TV as of late, I'm wondering if it's simply a lack of creativity and not Internet geeks that's the underlying problem.

Let's start with music. I already discussed this year's Grammy Awards in a previous post, where one big winner was able to accept her award while on hiatus from rehab. Nuff said. But also, remember the previous Grammys when troubled starlet Britney Spears was given the stage to lip-sync and prance around with absolutely no co-ordination, nor entertainment value, and an obvious lack of rehearsing. Is this the sort of content for which consumers are supposed to be willing to pay $17/CD? Of course we have tons of great artists on the scene, like John Mayer, Alicia Keys, Jack Johnson, and Josh Groban (judging from the comments on the aforementioned Grammys post, he has a diverse group of fans!) But when it really comes down to it, who gets the spotlight? The ones gallivanting on Hollywood Blvd., and/or with drinking and/or drug problems, and/or with great or odd fashion sense. There's no focus on the music anymore! In my opinion, absolutely NO artist should be permitted to lip-sync during a live performance. If you can't sing live, find another career.

Now let's move on to the movies. I can't help but notice that many of the biggest box-office sellers over the years have been based on popular novels of the same name. The Da Vinci Code, Memoirs of a Geisha, Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, and even this year's big Oscar winner, No Country for old Men. I'm pretty sure that if you dig deep enough into the credits of most big movies, you'll find that they are in some way, shape or form, based on a book. I do understand that a lot of work is involved in order to turn a novel into a screenplay. But I've seen many movies after having read the book, and the dialogue in some cases is virtually identical. Where's the originality? Are novelists the only people left with talent? Or is there a shortage of original screenplay writers?

Finally, there's TV, which has suffered an unfortunate blow because of the recent Hollywood Writer's Strike (perhaps these guys should have become novelists!) But even before the Strike was a glimmer in anyone's eye, reality TV begun to take over. In a typical prime-time TV line-up, there's probably 10 reality TV shows for every one scripted drama (this is just my guestimate, so don't hold me to this!) Everything from singing to talent competitions a la American Idol, to sticking people in a house or on an island and watching the drama ensue. If anyone believes that half of these shows are actually fully unscripted, they'll be sadly disappointed. But again, where's the originality? The creative juices that are working to entertain, not just provide shock value?

Sure, the Internet is making it much easier for consumers to get pretty much anything when they want it. But perhaps there's a reason beyond this changing face of technology that leads consumers to want to gather as much content as they can as quickly as they can. Do they feel they're not getting the quality they deserve? All I'm saying is that entertainment companies should take a long, hard look at issues like those mentioned above before forcing all the blame onto illegal downloading.


Jaybird said...

If I like a band I will go out and buy their CD.... I figure if people buy CD's like that then you end up telling the record companies what you like instead of the record companies telling you what you are supposed to like.

One troubling statistic that I heard about on a show called "The Hour". About 50% of teenagers didn't buy a CD last year, and not because they aren't listening to music.

Artists and record companies have to be more creative with what they are selling in stores or exploit other streams of revenue.

patrick said...

it seems like a general rule in any case that there tend to be only a few truly creative people ("Nothing on the earth is new")

Anonymous said...

Josh Groban is too good for internet downloading. I've bought all of his cds even though I don't have a cd player anymore (ipod). After all the effort and talent he put into making an album, he deserves the money (and so much more).

Anonymous said...

Every industry is being pressed through different distribution sources and profitability is tough. Record execs choose to battle in court rather than giving people a value added products. Why do my MP3 discs give me song titles when the store bought files don't? Why should we pay more to download a song legally than we would pay for a CD. Untill the labels give us value they will loose business.

Anonymous said...

There plenty of great musicians, filmmakers and authors out there. Of course if you only watch MTV you are not going to come across them.

Illegal downloading is not going to threaten careers of huge pop stars like Britney Spears. If illegal downloads persist to the extent that musicians cannot make money selling records, they will make their money through corporate sponsorship. This is the norm in China and it looks like some musicians in the west are following. I read today that Madonna has sold several tracks on her new album for mobile and shampoo adverts.

Ultimately this will mean that no music, book or film will be commercially viable unless it can be used to sell shampoo. Art will no longer have any intrinsic worth, just the worth it has in promoting a commercial product.

Music will be reduced to a vast landscape of generic formulaic pop sung by pretty and vacuous puppets. Like in China.